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13 Comments

Are mobile apps (native) still a thing?

There's this article that i was reading stating that we should stop creating mobile apps since the big ones have already conquered the users. I also noticed that most indie projects nowaways are web based applications. I'm actually just starting to learn native mobile app dev (flutter) any thoughts?

  1. 6

    I'm not a mobile developer and I have no data or insight.

    But, as an Android user, I won't even bother checking your app if you publish the gazillionth to-do list, habit or fitness tracker, calendar, note-taking tool, or game regardless of whether it's a native app or a PWA. You get the picture.

    1. 1

      I agree! its a very crowded space which sometimes makes me think that its more of a hobby rather than a project that can generate good MMR

    2. 1

      Haha.

      This hits home, even though I've always wanted to build habit trackers and fitness apps etc, it's an incredibly crowded space already.

      OTOH, I do remember the creator of everyday.app making several thousand MRR a couple of years ago, so I think it's still possible to make money if you execute exceptionally well.

      1. 1

        Absolutely, there's a lot of money in crowded spaces. But getting that money is comparatively difficult.

  2. 4

    I'm both an iOS developer and a web developer, I say go for it just for the learning experience (especially as a new developer) if it interests you and you have the time.

    If you are pressed for time though and this is purely a "how can i maximize my effort to get $" then I would pick the one that will get you the most initial users quickly.

    If you think that most of your initial users are going to be...

    1. Primarily iOS AND Android users -> Flutter / React Native
    2. Primarily iOS users and you don't need the Android anytime soon -> Swift
    3. Primarily iOS users and you need the Android soon -> Flutter / React Native
    4. Primarily Android users and you don't need the iOS soon -> Kotlin
    5. Primarily Android users but you need the iOS soon -> Flutter / React Native
    6. Primarily Web users -> React or something similar

    But overall, you should also factor in your comfort level with the language when it comes to speed. The reason i threw down Swift and Kotlin in there is personal preference. I tend to work faster with the native stuff for some reason. If you are the opposite, just swap with React Native, Flutter or any equivalent.

    In general, I don't think native apps are going anywhere though. There may be thousands of the same native app, but that doesn't mean you can't compete 😉

    Hopefully that helps a little!

  3. 2

    I would avoid building a mobile app unless you are confident you know how to handle app marketing/distribution.

    Downsides to mobile app businesses:

    • Limited marketing/distribution (basically ASO and paid app store ads)
    • Hyper-competitive and difficult to out-rank competitors who have thousands or tens-of-thousands more ratings than you. (On the flip side, if you have tens of thousands of ratings and top-5 rank for a high-traffic keyword, then that's a pretty good moat).
    • Marketing creativity is limited (only screenshots, video, text)... this makes it easy for customers to comparision shop, and hard for you to differentiate yourself
    • Hard to have a direct relationship with customer
    • App store dynamics favor low prices / free / freemium models which makes it hard to make a lot of money

    And these are just the big ones. There are tons of other problems too, like app reviews being a pain, annual OS changes/deprecations that break your app and force you to re-write code, competiting with unscrupulous competitors who use fake ratings/reviews and rip off your product, etc.

    In my experience, it's a cut-throat bloody race to the bottom. The only way I would ever do a mobile app is if I had a well-established and highly profitable brand and business (via web app) and decided to build mobile apps for the convenience of customers (e.g. Basecamp is primarily a web app and could stand alone without native apps, but they choose to have a nice native experience for their users).

  4. 2

    It really depends on your business and distribution channels. If you are building and distributing a B2C app as an indie maker then your probably save your resource somewhere else. But if you have some top-down distribution channels for B2B apps, for example like an expense tracking app for truck drivers that I did while partnering with couple logistic companies, then native really makes more sense and provide a better experience.

  5. 2

    Being solo and web-based I see no need for a mobile app. When I see analytics the overwhelming number of people arrive on desktop.

    No app is better than a bad app. And apps are hard to get right.

  6. 2

    I think it depends on what you are making like some other people said. I hope it’s not dead though because I just recently made an app using react native with expo. If you are developing alone I would look into expo it makes things a lot easier although it does have some short comings. Also not familiar with flutter though so that might work better for you if you are more familiar with it.

  7. 1

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  8. 1

    I think a mobile app makes sense if you have a specific use case and just want to focus on building the app part.

    As others have said, it's a tough market to get into because it's hard to get noticed at all. I don't think you'll get rich making an app for consumers, unless you get picked up by big name social influencer and get free publicity that way.

    There are some pros to sticking with just a mobile app and it made sense for me and my app. I'm limiting myself to doing an iOS app because 1) that's my area of expertise, so I can build quickly, 2) I am doing this for fun and as a side project outside of my regular job, so I'm okay with not big success, 3) I don't want to invest time in maintaining a SaaS.

    I limited my app to using iCloud for data storage and came up with a novel way of handling sync across multiple devices without having to spin up my own backend or pay for an existing one. That basically means my cost to build and maintain my app is just my time, the $100/year Apple dev fee, plus minor fees to maintain my marketing site. There aren't any other recurring fees to me.

    If I was targeting a SaaS product, I think I'd have to spend a bit more time on developing and maintaining the site.

  9. 1

    Web apps are easier to promote and get more visits, but mobile apps have better user retention.

    More and more people don't even have a computer anymore as they switched to mobile phones and are doing everything on them.

    So if the mobile world cake will be still growing, there still should be a need for mobile apps.

    The issue here is that, people want something more complex, which is harder to do as a solo developer.

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